International efforts to defuse the standoff over Ukraine intensified on Monday, with French President Emmanuel Macron set to hold talks in Moscow and German Chancellor Olaf Scholz in Washington to coordinate policies as fears of a Russian invasion mount.
The concentration of an estimated 100,000 Russian troops near Ukraine has fuelled Western worries that it heralds a possible offensive.
White House national security adviser Jake Sullivan warned Sunday that Russia could invade Ukraine “any day,” triggering a conflict that would come at an “enormous human cost.” Russia has denied any plans to attack its neighbour, but is urging the US and its allies to bar Ukraine and other ex-Soviet nations from joining NATO, halt weapons deployments there and roll back NATO forces from Eastern Europe. Washington and NATO have rejected the demands.
Macron, who is set to meet in the Kremlin with Russian President Vladimir Putin before visiting Ukraine on Tuesday, said last week that his priority is “dialogue with Russia and de-escalation.” Before heading to Moscow, Macron had a call Sunday with US President Joe Biden.
“I’m reasonably optimistic but I don’t believe in spontaneous miracles,” Macron told reporters shortly after landing in the Russian capital.
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This even as Kremlin spokesperson Dmitry Peskov said: “The situation is too complex to expect decisive breakthroughs in the course of one meeting.”
Earlier in his talks with Biden, Macron discussed “ongoing diplomatic and deterrence efforts in response to Russia’s continued military build-up on Ukraine’s borders, and affirmed their support for Ukraine’s sovereignty and territorial integrity,” the White House said in a statement.
The French presidency said Macron sought to ensure “good coordination” with Biden in the call.
“The security and sovereignty of Ukraine or any other European state cannot be a subject for compromise, while it is also legitimate for Russia to pose the question of its own security,” Macron said in an interview with French newspaper Journal du Dimanche published on Sunday Putin’s spokesman, Dmitry Peskov, described Macron’s visit as “very important,” but sought to temper expectations, telling reporters that “the situation is too complex to expect a decisive breakthrough after just one meeting.” He noted that “the atmosphere has remained tense,” adding that the US and its allies have continued to ignore Moscow’s security demands.